Empowered by technology, SMEs can now go toe-to-toe with big business

There was a time when small-to-medium sized organisations had to make do with whatever they had to even stand a chance of survival. Not too long ago, the issue of technology procurement and application in SMEs or SMBs was shrouded in frustration and difficulty.

Paul Luff, Country Manager, SMC Networks South Africa. (Image: File)

Decision makers who knew what ICT they wanted, but could not afford to source and implement it. Those who had the technology but required advice or guidance, received little in the way of meaningful support. Technical issues were viewed either as elephants in the room’ or a fire that had to be extinguished – and usually with money.

It is amazing what can happen in a short time. Today, the small-to-medium segment of the market is one of the fastest growing within the broader economy – a view shared by the leadership of established ICT and telecommunications companies.

One of the key game-changers for this area of the market has been the advent of the cloud. There is no denying that this model has changed the way technology is brought on board and used. It has radically transformed conventional processes and procedures related to technology ownership and application in the workplace.

Now those operating within this ultra-competitive space do not have to spend a fortune on infrastructure and systems to sustain the business. They are not obliged to detract attention away from core focus areas in order to look after technology or scramble to sort out technical issues that arise.

They have a clear opportunity to invest in and acquire the advantages of cloud-based service which, if correctly understood and strategically implemented to suit the business, does have benefits.

These include productivity and a flexible, more predictable price structure that enables more accurate and effective budgeting.

It is important for the business operator to be able to differentiate between the public/ private or hybrid cloud model and truly understand what is the most suitable for the business. This is where service provision is emerging as an asset.

To illustrate, Vodacom and Microsoft recently established an alliance to rollout Microsoft’s Office365, the company’s cloud productivity service.

The service will be bundled with Vodacom’s broadband connectivity products that are tailored specifically for this area of the market.

According to a statement released by Vodacom Business Services, the Managing Executive from the company, Chris Lazarus, said it is imperative that SMEs are provided with the tools necessary to compete with big business within a marketplace driven by the need for fast turnaround times and proactive service.

I have to agree – and this is another facet of the current market that is interesting. Size is all relative. There is no more ‘small fish/ big fish in the pond’ scenario. Technology has levelled the playing field and with access to numerous services offered through the cloud, the small operator has just as much opportunity as larger counterparts.

The network has always been – and will always be the lifeblood of any organisation. Whereas in the past IT administrators and Financial Directors would have to endure lengthy, arduous brainstorming sessions to figure out how to apply the IT strategy, there is far more room to manoeuvre today.

And this is a good thing because, according to statistics like those reflected in an IP Expo Corporate Cloud Survey in 2011, by 2013, 56% of corporations will be using cloud computing.

Moreover the relevance of undersea cable infrastructure cannot be ignored. The capacity offered by this infrastructure is expected to be 35 Terabytes per second by 2013.

Big data and the certain increase in Internet and mobile solution users mean that SMEs should position themselves to take advantage of the access and business opportunities.

It also means that networks will continue to be of critical importance.

Networks are becoming smarter, decision makers are more tech-savvy and have more understanding of what is actually required within the business and what is not. There is a far more analytical and strategic component to the purchasing of infrastructure and application.

Data analytics and mobility is driving network maturity and investment. This, together with innovation and multi-functional products, mean more power to the operator – irrespective of size or focus.

Paul Luff, country manager, SMC Networks South Africa